Hailing from Austin, Texas; Institute emerged in 2013 to become one of my favorite contemporary punk bands going. While made up of members from other Austin hardcore punk staples like Glue, Wiccans and Blotter, Institute is more informed by early 70’s anarcho crossover bands like Crisis and Warsaw (but the dudes are careful not to let themselves be defined as too Gothy). I had a chance to meet up with Moses Brown and Arak Avakian when they happened to be passing through New York City on their way to Toronto. Along with their friend Harry, they were fresh out of a stay in Newport, RI where they had made up a fake contracting business so they afford an ‘opulent’ Canadian getaway; starting off by ordering every appetizer at a fancy French place called Le Gamin in Greenpoint, where I first met the duo.
Following their addictive debut demo, Institute will be releasing a new EP on Sacred Bones Records this October 14.
Well, I wasn’t able to find out much information on you guys. How did Institute come together?
M: I wanted to write some songs, so I just did and recorded them on a four track. I had five songs but then our bass player Adam called me up thinking I had a whole band already. I said “Uhh, No. But I got these songs, you want to do a band?” One of those songs I wrote, “Dead Sea”, was eventually used for Institute, but we as a band wrote the rest of the demo in a month or so after that.
So Adam sort of pushed the band into existence?
M: Yeah, sort of out of confusion.
I was wondering if you intentionally set out to do something really different from the more straight forward punk stuff you were doing with Glue and other bands that you are all involved in?
M: There was no conscious effort. We just wanted to start this band.
That’s sick. I missed you guys when you played here last time, which sucked. But I saw this video of you guys playing in Boston and I was surprised by how hard people were going off. For some reason, when I was listening to the demo… Everything comes off as punk but…
M: It’s melodic…
Yeah, it’s melodic and some parts and weird and some parts are slow. I was wondering how Austin responds to you guys?
A: People Pit!
M: Like it’s Glue… It’s confusing. I think people don’t know what to do. The fact that we are in hardcore bands and usually play hardcore shows in the same scene… Most people that come out want to push around if they like a band.
So moshing is the only way the fans know how to react to music that they like?
M: I want everyone to jump up and down.
A: Most of the time it just seems like everyone wants to be in front of each other.
M: But it is a good response!
What was the response like in New York?
M: It was actually really good! I think Adam Whites said that in New York people are either going to love you or they are going to hate you.
M: He said that we won over the crowd. To me, it was just a show.
A: It felt very regular.
I think that the problem with playing at Lulu’s is also the space was so weird that everyone could have just stood there eating pizza and whatever.
A: Naw, it got wild.
I really like the lyrics to the songs. It isn’t some faux Goth overly sentimental sad shit but not ignorant boring punk posturing. A lot of the songs seem to tell a story, are they autobiographical? Were there any songs that were hard to write?
M: I just want to lyrics to be authentic. I like to be able to scream at people in a crowd about the things I don’t like about myself. That said, I don’t take myself seriously at any point. the lyrics come from the perspective of like “wow look how stupid I am”.
What are you inspired by lyrically? Are there specific themes that you find yourself coming back to?
M: I write about being a kid a lot. How disappointed I am with my childhood. A lot about me being disconnected, shutting myself off. I always say that I wish I had a regular childhood, like got in trouble, pissed off my parents, partied in high school, but I didn’t do any of that. I got nothing out of childhood, I ignored it. I feel screwed up now because of it.
Are you making up for lost time?
M: No! I’m doing the same thing but I’m conscious about doing it now. I am cool with it.
What was your childhood like?
M: I was talking about this recently… Harry was talking about how shitty of a kid he was and … I don’t even think my parents got mad at me.
A: And Moses and I have known each other since we were like ten years old. I would always go out and stay out late and want to break into a building and throw cans of paint onto the highway or drive a golf cart around or whatever and Moses would be like ‘ gotta wake up at seven’, and wouldn’t come along.
M: I was super regimented. When I didn’t have something to do I would wake up and skateboard for three hours and then ride my bike home and … always do the right thing. Or what I thought was the right thing. I didn’t let myself have any fun.
Were you a straight edge kid?
M: Naw. The High school that we went to… There was no straight edge scene. I didn’t even know it was a thing. And then after high school we met people who were in hardcore bands and were like huh?
A: Yeah! And our scene didn’t exist at all until we were kinda older, 19 or something.
Did you guys kind of make it?
M: There were definitely older guys who had bands but there is definitely a new batch of bands in Austin.
A: There have always been bands in Austin, but not always crowds
Did you start playing music together?
A: Pretty much. I used to go over to Moses’s house to skateboard. At some point I got a guitar for Christmas. His Dad had a studio and all this sick gear. I was really amazed; I had a six-inch practice amp and this shitty guitar…
What was your first band together?
M: Lemonade Stand Syndicate. It was really bad.
What were your influences?
M: The Hives and the Dead Kennedy’s.
That is an interesting combo.
M: It was weird.
A: I wanted to start that band because I knew a kid in my class and I thought that he talked crazy. I asked him to sing in the band and swore it was a real band.
M: We played like three shows… We played a wedding…
You played a wedding!?
A: Ya! It was cool.
M: I think the demo is still up on myspace.
I am curious about your decision to release a record with Sacred Bones but also don’t wanna do any PR or any of that stuff.
M: We wanted to work with them. When the demo came out and people liked it, we decided to say yes to whatever we could do. Why the hell not?
A: The demo was pressed onto a 12’ on Deranged and the whole experience kinda sucked. We didn’t know the dude, and we had no idea what was going on.
M: He was distant from everything, from the artwork to the pressing at the factory; it was like no one knew what was going on. But after we did the 7’ with Adam…
And he is on top of his shit for sure.
M: Yeah. And with the new record… I am insane about the artwork and the way that things look. Sacred Bones were down to do all this screen-printing, making sure the jackets were the exact paper that I want.
A: And they offer any opportunity from zero to one hundred. We just knew between meeting Taylor and Caleb and playing a few shows with Destruction Unit that it was the right choice to make.
Well, the album art seems important to you, Moses. And I know that you make art as well. Tell me a little bit about the artwork for the album and how your personal art differs from art that is associated with the music that you make?
M: The whole theme of Institute is really influenced by Dada stuff. I am into abstracting Dada. Stupid shit. Dada was already about the absurd, so I’ve just been making it even more absurd by cutting images up and scrambling them around. I wanna steal things and take them to a next step. I am not sure how it connects to the music really, except that Dada is punk. The new personal art I’m trying to make is honestly informed by Institute art. Institute could have gone a very different way, in terms of how it looks. The first demo was brutalist architecture… Very angular, black and grey. But it looked too Goth.
A: We had to be really careful not to step into being too Gothy.
M: We have nothing against death rock; we just want to be a punk band.
But there are definitely parts of your music that seems informed by peace punk and Goth? Especially the guitar work. Are you into those things but careful about being a punk band?
A: It’s hard to specifically cite our influences, because we write everything together,
M: The feel of the band and the direction that it is going in is very much like early anarcho / death rock back before it was defined and basically just still punk. The demo feel, epileptics that 1st UK Decay 7”. All of the classics’ demos. Then obviously Crisis and Warsaw. I like a lot of death rock stuff, but I am more into the early stuff that is more punk.
So you guys have a new drummer?
M: Yeah, I think our old drummer was having trouble balancing being in a band and going to school.
A: Our drummer used to sing for the band Recide. They played for four years and just recently stopped playing. I don’t want to say that it was his baby or anything, but it seemed to be everything to him musically.
So who is drumming now?
M: His name is Barry, he is from Houston. He plays in Back to Back.
A: We are good friends with everyone in that band. I was always listening to their demo and thinking, fuck, these drums are really good. As it turns out, Barry had recorded everything on all their records. He is just one of those guys that can do that. We had one practice and I feel like we can tour again already.
Do you think he can change the direction of the band at all?
M: He’s on the exact same frequency as us
I thought Houston was pretty far from Austin?
A: It’s about two hours, but in Texas, that is not that far to go. You are used to driving. If you wanted to drive to LA from Austin, you’d already be half way by the time that you have left Texas.
I know there is a pretty good scene going in Austin right now. Are there any bands that you feel are being overlooked?
M: Pinkos got overlooked hard. They are no longer together.
A: Scattered across the USA now.
M: But they might reform in Chicago. They were really good and nobody cared about them. There are also a bunch of good brand new bands but I don’t have much of a connection to them yet. Pinkos were one of those bands that I loved and I couldn’t understand why nobody else did.
A: There is a band called Detestados. They don’t have a demo or anything, but they have probably played six or seven shows. Spanish vocals, but sounds like Italian hardcore. It’s tight.
Any other new Austin music to look out for?
M: Adam just started this band called Bad Faith, our 16 year old friend Parker is in this new band called Stacker. All these bands are demo-less, but that’ll change soon.
A: Try and listen to the new 7” on Video Disease from Iron Youth.
M: Not a punk band, but I just finished a tape of experimental music I’ve been working on called Peacetime Death. I have to mix it, but then it’ll be totally done.
Well, before we sign off, I got to ask you about your vacation!
M: It’s good!
A: So good. We love Newport.
M: It’s cool too because we just got back from Glue tour which was essentially a vacation. We went West and just hung out at the beach everyday and saw nature.
A: I have been on vacation since May fourth. My lease ended at my house and I graduated from college a few days later. The morning after that I left for Institute tour. I’ve just had the same four tee shirts in my bag all summer. Anyway, tonight we are going to surprise our friends in Impalers when we show up in Toronto. Take that, read this in the future.
A logical place to start would be where you are right now: on tour. You’re supporting “Children of Desire” in the wake of a very favorable Pitchfork rising article. So far, does this tour feel very different from past experiences touring with Merchandise?
Carson: Yes. A hundred percent different, and probably the last time we’ll ever tour this way.
In what way?
Pat: Punk shows.
C: Punk is just way different in Florida. There was this reason to stay true to where we were from and the more I play punk shows, the less I feel this way because… It means a lot to us and it doesn’t mean the same thing to other people; especially in New England and the big city. It’s an easy thing for a lot of people here. There are cool bands all the time. It is a social scene. It feels like, as a whole, the big DIY shows here are less passionate that where we come from. There are a lot of things about the way that we are doing this tour that doesn’t work.
You guys come across as unified front, and very close confidants. Do you ever worry that the stresses of being in a band will strain your personal relationships?
Dave: With this band, I don’t think it will ever come to a head like that. We are pretty much a family. We have been playing together for seven years in various bands. We are closer now than we have ever been despite getting more popular and making more friends and more enemies.
C: Seriously. Especially enemies. This has destroyed all of our other bands. This is the kind of thing that tears all bands apart but it is an experience that we have already lived through, honestly. At this point, we know what to expect.
I was very impressed with the literary companion to the album, “Desire in the Mouth of Dogs”. Carson is often credited as the songwriter of the band but I read that Dave actually wrote the piece, intertwined with Carson’s lyrics. The prose is very realized and I was wondering if Dave is a writer?
D: I am not much a writer.
C: That’s bullshit.
D: That was the first big piece of prose that I have ever tried. I read a lot. I have a literature degree from college. I am just interested in finding a new voice for the music. In this band we want to make it more than just music, we want to push everything.
C: Even if we fail.
D: We just want to try.
P: There are a lot of expressions that need to be released through different mediums. This is not just a band that is writing songs. This is way bigger than that.
C: We started out playing music but we essentially broke up and I wrote the first record by myself. I had Dave record a bunch of shit over it. We had no intention of playing live. I had no intention of continuing the band. I thought it was going to be a tape and that was going to be it.
Since the inception, it seems that we have always worked the opposite of the way that a lot of other bands worked. We never played live. We only made music videos for a long time. I wasn’t interested in touring my ass off to get my foot into some door. I was more interested in communicating directly with people.
D: It was an outlet that accidentally turned into a band. But the book [“Desire in the Mouth of Dogs”] was very much a ‘I just want to do this’ sort of thing. We didn’t even plan it. At the end, it just all came together.
That is so interesting because I read it as a manifesto to the album.
C: At the same time, there is a psychic thread linking the two because we were working on both of them at the same time. The headspace was shared with both projects.
They mirror each other.
C: Not to mention real life. And not to mention art, in general, being a mirror. That is part of the reason why it’s good for us to space out records. I don’t know what is going to come to me at what time. [The book] was not really planned but it was foretold. It was shown to us.
Another extension of the record and of your last would be…
C: Are you going to ask me about God?
Do you believe in God? Another extension of the record is your music videos. I noticed that several of the videos use a lot of mirroring, multiple layers of the same image and patterns of imagery. I assume this is not simply a stylistic decision as on the albums cover art, that the letter W stands before the word ‘Merchandise’,undoubtedly a nod to the bands nom de plume, W. Marehendes. Also, a W is an inverted M. Can you speak a little bit about this?
C: It is a play on language. It is a play on communication. It’s a play on Dada poetry. It is a way to vent fucking frustration and bordom.
P: We want to show that you don’t have to follow one straight path.
C: I feel like even the word ‘Merchandise’ almost doesn’t sound like English. It sounds hard; the consonants in it are strange. We knew what we were doing.
We want to have fun and confuse people. People started following us and we were like. Okay, let’s change [the name].
In terms of the divine I was raised to believe in God but I don’t believe in a Christian faith. I believe it has a lot to do with who I am. It has a lot to do with my guilt and my fear.
You can’t take all of the Christian out of someone who was raised Christian.
C: This is me working through that. I still feel vulnerable from that period of my life. I remember being a kid and crying because I knew what death was. Time to me, is a big theme of life. Time is the same as death.
A lot of the record was very much inspired by me reading about Taoism and Buddhism and the difference between East and West. The East is totally fascinating to me. The afterlife is the absence of an after-life. They have come to terms with reality in that way. In the East you die and you become one with the universe. Your consciousness changes. And they think that is beautiful. They are not afraid of it. In this country, you see fear constantly. The way people work, the way people act.
You’ve spoken about the theme of time but dreams also seem to be a very important theme throughout your work. In Freudian thought, dreams and desire and absolutely related. Can you talk a little but about the correlation of dreams and desire in your own lives and music?
C: For the record, I was having tons of nightmares. Everyday. And night terrors. In general, I believe that dreams parallel art and creativity. A dream will show you what has been building up inside your head.
Is there a specific nightmare that inspired “In Nightmare Room”?
C: Yeah, Verbatim. Dreams are like a gut feeling. That is why they are the only thing I can guide art through. It goes back to a Psych landscape that was really fascinating to me, like really psyching out a record really dubbing out a record and just making it be like a sit down experience. Like a movie. And dreams share a lot with visual plastic arts like video. There is a lot you can do… The last video we made was dream based. There was a short at the end that is the “nightmare room” lyrics all put into a very simplified thing.
Carson has cited that Merchandise’s romantic sound is largely due to the fact that his Mother taught him to sing…
C: And I am making my Mother more famous than I am, because people ask me about her all the time. Constantly.
How is your Mother?
C: She is wonderful. She is my favorite person ever. She is also mad at me because I won’t ever sing with her. But she always wanted me to sing with her at the choir in church and I was like ‘No, I am not going to do that.’ She is 62. She comes from a different generation where the American Songbook was very much a part of her growing up and she raised up sort of like Midwesterners growing up in Florida. It was very strange.
I have memories of us struggling. My father leaving the family and my mother raising us, my grandfather helping to raise us. The soundtrack to that was her singing Sarah Vaughan and pop music from the 50’s, where the notion of beauty is all anyone ever cares about. They just want to make the most perfect sounding thing. Pre-70’s. Nothing really cheap to it but the life we were living was very different, very fractured from that. It was not the 50’s at all.
We were living in Tampa Bay, a developing city. The public schools were really fucking bad, really shitty. It was like her voice against the reality of being a little kid. My Mother’s voice exists outside of that. I believe she will come back to me after she is dead. I believe she will definitely be there.
So… She taught me how to sing. And then I got into punk. And then I don’t know what happened. I can’t even explain why it happened. But this music [Merchandise] was like faggot music. Nobody wanted it. But apparently it has appealed to a lot of people who I didn’t expect it to. Half nurtured by punks and half destroyed by it. Strange.
But there is also a preoccupation with romantic love in your lyrics… Do you believe that all men are preoccupied with romantic love, weather exalting it or cursing it?
C: Both. Absolutely.
P: Or avoiding it.
C: Yeah, or avoiding it… yeah. I would say at this stage in my life that I am avoiding it. It just sucks to fall in love. It is a big pain in the ass. In general. Come on. It’s not even a joke. You are bound to it. It is part of what happens. Loneliness is a constant thing with everyone. I am totally serious, it just is. It gets at everybody and you can’t say that it doesn’t.
At the same time you can’t just listen to that voice. There are a million things you can pay attention to and most people pay attention to the most negative thing. I don’t know… There are just too many good songs about heartache. Hank Williams Senior is up there.
D: Roy Orbison.
C: Roy Orbison is another one. The Everly Brothers. Music that will fucking kill you. Jimmy Rodgers. Above all. The last time I was really heart broken it was like: ‘I have got to stop listening to Jimmy Rodgers, because it is killing me’. It is so good. It is so sad. It is just a sad cowboy yodeling with a guitar. Some of the things that have hit me the hardest are not punk. They are not electronic.
With Jimmy Rogers or that shit… It was recorded onto wax cylinders or something. It was really, really raw. And really fucking sad. And folk music is a huge part of our music headspace too. Beyond Neil Young, Bob Dylan and the grateful dead… Jimmy Rodgers, Merle Haggard, Abner Jay. There is so much in folk music that translates to all music. I don’t think really think of separating music. I do not think of genres and like you know… That is why we had one song on the new record having a song with a piano on it because it was like ‘this is the same layout as a synth’. You can convey it in a different way. But it was important to me to have that. And the next record is going to be touching on more things. I am not interested in us being stuck into something. We are not a fucking Brooklyn band. I don’t want us to be stuck in one space and if people think we are an Indie rock band than that’s really not what I am trying to do. I am trying to make something new, the best I can. And if I fail, so be it.
I believe the fact that you do not play a particular ‘genre’ of music is really important and I think that is what many people recognize in you. I think it is really funny because I got into you guys by you just giving me “Strange Songs ( in the Dark)”. We were talking about music all day [in Tampa] and you were like… “You should not pay for this, you should have it.” HAHA ADAM [Katorga Works]!
C: And Adam is fine with that, too. That is the crazy thing. You’ll never find a label that is like OK with that.
D: I mean, he posts all the records for free.
I think that is really cool. One of my best friends, Casey, who I met in High School came to the show last night and asked me if you had any CDs, because he doesn’t have a record player. I told him he could download it for free. He wanted to support you guys but I told him to buy a shirt. You have everything online from the guy who released it!
C: At this point in my life I am really, really interested in reaching to people who are not into music. More than anything.
D: We do not want to be exclusionary at all.
C: I am fascinated with this being a way to communicate with people. It was always expression to me but I never thought that it was a way to communicate with people…
It was so interesting to me… To receive your record in Tampa and after a 25-hour drive I put it on right away, after returning to Philadelphia. Just because… I really liked it. And I was really happy that I had no idea what it was, in a way. I just loved it for whatever it was. It just resonated with me.
From the very beginning, from the first time I heard it, I was really into it but I have also always been happy that I got into it through hanging out with Carson and Dave. Having a long conversation on your porch in Tampa and then going home with this amazing gift that really touched me. I have always thought that is the best way to get into a band…
C: And that is the best way to find people that are genuine. And that is how it worked for so long and that was part of the reason why we didn’t expect labels to be asking us to do stuff because it was so personal. That is how we met, but that is also how we do everything. Because we care about it. It is weird to me that many people don’t.
And now you are in this awkward position where you can not play the same sorts of shows that you were playing even a year ago but many of the people who are going to your bigger shows only care on a surface level.
C: Yes… A surface level. You played that set last night and I thought it was really moving. Especially for any of the girls in the audience. But even for me… I have been called a faggot my whole life. Everyone is school just thought I was gay or they were totally mentally abusive. That is the part of me that identifies with this minority that women play.
And my Mother. She is stronger than any male in my family. Raised me and my sister. Got a ton of shit for being on welfare for a long time and being a single Mom. And she is not even bitter. She is just like I had to make money, I don’t care. I don’t have time to feel like dog shit because these people think that I am a piece of shit. That is how her spirit is. She is from the old world. To me there is a lot of virtue in that.
Oh, to be a woman.
C: I love all people, but I especially connect with women in that way and I don’t know why. Which is also maybe the reason why maybe I fall in love with them in the way that I do and it is really hard when it goes bad is because I see something in them that they don’t see in themselves. I have fallen in love with girls who just don’t respect themselves in a lot of ways and I respect them more than they do. And at some point it becomes impossible.
If they are used to abuse, whether it is mainstream social abuse and oppression or being part of this world and suffering because of it or if they are used to suffering at the hands of people that they love. They are told that this is what it is to be in love and it’s not. You can only respect someone who respects themselves.
What do you love more than anything in this world?
C: Beauty. D: It is hard to say anything other than beauty. My friends. My music.
So, Pat, energy drinks?
P: I think energy drinks are a worldly thing.
C: You are supposed to say Florida Hardcore.
P: Yeah, Hardcore, Florida, Hard Times magazine. Nooooo. I think positive energy. Good spirits. Beauty has a lot to do with it. Carson touched on this but people’s perception of reality and how things are usually so short sighted and I think that people live in this reality where they are super suppressed. And when people break out of that, it is very beautiful. It is definitely and opportunity that comes very rarely in people’s lives and I think it is important to embrace it. And it goes back to how to band functions and how I don’t ever think it will be a problem because we have all recognized this and we have taken an opportunity. There is nothing subversive about what we are doing. And it is a great thing.
C: To communicate honestly… Is the greatest thing. To be able to talk to one person is really wonderful. It is way better than communicating in a massive way. To be able to reach one person is still the goal, overall. It is kind of changing now. I don’t know how we are necessarily going to do that all the time. I want to do that, though. I want to communicate directly with people. I don’t want there to be a bullshit barrier between us, press and the audience. I don’t want there to be a wall. Our e-mail address goes straight to us. If anyone wants to talk to us they can just talk to us. That will never change, I don’t think.
It’s becoming really hard to stay that way. I used to be able to say concrete things about what we were going to do and what we were never going to do… I used to be able to say that “we are never going to do this, you are never going to see us here, and you are never going to see us appealing to these sorts of people” and that is just not true anymore. So much is changed I can never say never anymore.
At the same time I believe that we can do more than what a band is supposed to do. Which is another reason why I don’t even think we are a ‘band’. We are all drummers. We all play guitar. We are all songwriters. We all write our own songs. So is that a band? I don’t just sing. Dave doesn’t just play guitar. Pat doesn’t just play bass. There are a whole lot of things that make it work. I love doing this as long as I can keep it how I want it to be. But to make something beautiful is ultimately what we want to do. We have kind of done a lot of shit over the years and we are entering a whole new chapter. And that is why I can never say never anymore. But if I can make my Mother happy… That is the perfect goal. It is a perfect goal because I can achieve it. To communicate with some directly is a goal that I can accomplish. To me I feel like we’ve done a lot and I am proud of where we are at this point.
Honestly, I was really inspired when I was researching online about you guys and trying to figure out what questions I should ask you. I came across people talking shit on you guys on the Internet, especially about how you’ve “sold out” and have press. And coincidently, my boyfriend started doing press for you guys.
C: Yeah, the kid whose band I booked at Heinrichs Workshop. You know what I mean? Come the fuck on. Do you know how we know these people? We know these people because we were all shitty punk kids together and we all played the same shows and we played the same basements together. It is so natural it is retarded.
When I met him he was unemployed and before that he worked at a Best Buy so that he could tour. His current job happens to be a job that he just got through being in his last band [The Men].
C: Price tagging Rancid CDs…
It’s not like he is some evil person who set out to work in the industry or sponge off independent bands…
P: People have been talking shit forever. Ever since we were in punk bands dubbing tapes on my own in my bedroom on my own stereo and someone across the country on the Internet feels like shitting all over it. It has been such a sick cycle. It started with local hate, to national hate and now there is international hate.
C: INTERNATIONAL HATE.
P: I think I was quoted in an interview as having said that hate is the glue that holds the world together.
C: Even though I said it. We wrote in Pat’s answers for an interview. It was fun making him say whatever I wanted. But really, the DIY world needs to fucking check themselves because they have been getting away with righteous bullshit for a long fucking time. Man, I have met CEO’s of major labels that are much more humble than these assholes. The whole game has changed. And if you think you are going to stay on top forever you are as delusional as every fucking republican and democrat in this country. You are as delusional as every fucking Christian. They are just as delusional as every mainstream, person in this country. Everyone who thinks of themselves as a part of this DIY society is just as dumb, you just buy records all of the time. You are a consumer. You are not a purist. You are not an individual. You are defining your identity through this and it is fake.
I was really fascinated by this threat that you pose to so many people. Punk kids are lashing out at you. I honestly just like your music, and I like you guys but I also have faith that whatever record label you put a record on doesn’t matter because it is still going to be good and beautiful and interesting and I am going to want to listen to it. Who the fuck cares? If someone wanted to publish my book or allowed me to be a paid journalist- if someone gave me the opportunity to make writing my job, fuck yeah, I would take that. I would take that in a heartbeat. That is what I want to do… But I don’t think people would have a problem with that. The fact that people have a problem with you guys doing what you love and ONLY doing what you love is fucking gross. And they need to chill the fuck out.
C: It is ridiculous because it is almost like DIY kids want us to go for broke and sign to a major label. It’s almost like they won’t respect us until we do. We feel like okay… We are just like you and we are going to play this show in this city… We have been doing this for years and years just like you have. Doing the same thing. Booking with the same people. Still doing it. Still playing houses after getting some press and people thinking that we are bigger than we are. Still doing it and people don’t respect that. They only respect power. They are just like everyone else.
DIY kids were not supposed to be like this. There is supposed to be this unwritten spiritual contract between us like “I’m punk, your punk, this is how we do it” but there are divisions throughout it I have stood on both sides and at the end of the day nobody knows what they are doing but you can only decide what you are going to do. I try to tell that to my friends.
I know so many people who are so creative and are so smart and they are totally held back by their peer group. 100%. Merchandise was not supposed to be a band. Nobody offered to do a record besides Adam. Nobody was interested in it. In my city, we were a joke because we were not hardcore. We played with bands like Cult Ritual and it doesn’t matter. We are just playing music, man. At the end of the day I have to say, I have grown up a little bit and the DIY scene is just like high school. It’s just like high school bullshit.
And DIY culture mimics all the problems that we have in this world and mainstream society… Just smaller versions of the same problems.
C: It is a microcosm of Christian thought and Christian society.
Who is cool? Who is not?
C: Who is righteous?
D: Judge and jury. Police, its bullshit. The society that they are rallying against… They are just replicating it. And it is just a little more gross because it’s so personal. It’s crap. I think it’s awful.
Our generation wasn’t part of the punk movement; we are part of punk culture that we have appropriated.
C: I would say we are more power violence than anything else at this point. Honestly, that is what it is. Old punks don’t really know what it is all about now and young kids are still making great music. And no one really expects it. No one is expecting there to be a second wave of honest to goodness good independent music. And everyone is trying to get a piece of it. Who knows how long it is going to last or if it can really mirror anything that has happened in the past. I feel like it is a totally different thing.
Again, we are not punks we are hardcore kids. This is hardcore, not punk. Punk is something that happened before us and hardcore is still happening now. When I was 18 years old I only recorded power violence bands because that was all there was but I called it punk. I just thought they were punk kids. Again, we are making something new now. We can’t really attach to this whole thing. It is cool that old dudes want to be a part of what is happening. It is cool that they still want to be a part of everything. It’s cool that Negative Approach is apparently still good.
D: It sucks that they are touring with OFF! Though.
I know! So are The Spits :(.
C: Off! Fucking sucks. It’s fucking garbage. I think Keith Morris is a fucking piece of shit. And you can print it! I don’t give a shit! He’s never done anything for me and he has been running his mouth in every fucking punk documentary for thirty years… Being like ‘This is how it is’ and trying to be a person who was part of everything but what the fuck is he participating in now? Look at what you are doing. Do you think it is the same? I get it, you are old and you are scared of anything else. Punk is not what it used to be. Everyone is going to look back and he is going to be a clown. And it’s sad. He can’t even see it. But it’s not the same thing at all. I think that people realize it and it is part of the reason why it is still exciting to play DIY shows and the reason why I still want to book DIY this year but it is starting to come to a head. The more popular we become the more visible we are, the less we can do in that world. I want to do everything I can, I want to play with as many bands as I can before we get to the point where we have to do something else. I still feel like we could play huge rooms but we wouldn’t sound the same. It wouldn’t be the same band. You wouldn’t see what you saw last night. And if we did it would have to be very special.
But we wouldn’t have Henry Rollins playing with us. We would have Rat Bastard on guitar. That is where we come from. It is a different place. And it’s not punk, why do we even care about honoring these people? They don’t honor us. And they are just as fucking desperate as all the industry people. And a lot of the industry people… The wind has been taken out of their sails because they can’t make money anymore. It is not what it used to be. There are people that people think are millionaires who are not millionaires. It is not as easy to put out records anymore. At the same time, labels are kind of dumb. They are putting out dumb stuff.
Too many record labels are just putting out whatever they think is going to make them money and opposed to what they feel passionate about.
C: It is so short sighted. It is so fashionable. And it sucks. There are only a few record labels that are curated in a personal way. Night People, to me, have always been part of my scene. It has been part of my life. It wasn’t a barrier between me press band label it wasn’t like that. Which is how a lot of people want to work. They want to keep that wall up so they seem exclusive. And it is press doing it. It’s PR people doing it. And they don’t care. They are not even musicians. They are like wanna be celebrity people who want to live a glamorous big city life but they are not artists. They just live off artists. It’s totally weird. And I am sure you guys see it more than we see it because we are in fucking Tampa Bay.
It’s funny though because when you talk about “big city music” I don’t really exist in that. I don’t really go to ‘big’ shows.
C: Because you are in love with music. And most people are not in love with music. Most people do not listen to music. It’s true, most people that come to our shows now, they don’t listen to music. They don’t. They are not interested. They are doing something else. It is like, get fucked. That is why our scene was so small for so long, it was just the people who really liked it. People want to create fame. People want to create a celebrity. They want to create this thing. They want to create an idol. And I don’t know why. It’s the food chain. It’s high school. They want to create the quarterback of the football team. They want to create that. They don’t want an artist. They don’t want something new. They don’t want an experiment.
On another level, I wonder how many people who were at your show last night were like “We want to see this Merchandise band, they are going to be something! They are going to be famous!”
D: And they can be like “I saw them in a gallery in Philly!
C: I saw them when they sucked!
I really do wonder that. I was at your Philly show last year and…
D: No one was there!
But also, I am trying not to be a person who wants to keep a band to myself.
C: I used to. But the older I get, the more personal my priorities get and less about music. Like I am more concerned about my friends being okay, my family, my own personal life. I am not really concerned with my scene anymore. I used to be really involved. I recorded every band in Tampa that was worth shit and played in my little circle. It was important to me. But that was also also how I got into electronic music. Because I got into kids playing music with keyboards and it was awesome. It was way inspiring to see bands like Byron House place. And it was way inspiring to see bands like Halves and Thirds and Skeleton Warrior doing it because they wanted to do it and for no other reason. And it was way before this fucking dark pop thing. Sooo coool.
We’re leaving the fake Goth thing and entering into the ironic grunge stage now.
D: Is that what’s happening? I guess we’ll see when we are in New York.
Look around at your New York show. See what’s cool now. It’s half fake Goths and half ironic grunge.
D: That is the perfect demographic for our music!
C: I gravitate towards people that don’t like music. The last girl I had a crush on was hilarious. She didn’t know anything. She didn’t know who Animal Collective was. She didn’t know any big Indie bands. I was like I like you so much because I feel like you are not as obsessed with bullshit as I am. It seems freeing and liberating. There is a stigma to listening to music that is not part of your thing/ I remember getting into punk and throwing away my rock CDS. I felt like I cannot be into this anymore because it is not fast. I cannot be into this anymore because it is on a major label. And now it is like, I don’t care where I pull music from.
Your life is a drop in the bucket and to care about that seems like a waste of time. And I feel that people who are not as knowledgeable about music know it’s a waste of time and that is why they don’t do it. They work hard. Some of them live honestly. Some of them live dishonestly. But it doesn’t really matter. You can fall in love with somebody and it doesn’t have to be on that level. It is really shallow. Music is really shallow.
And so many friendships and relationships are based on musical tastes. It is kind of sad and strange.
D: It’s not a strong foundation.
C: What is the difference with being on a DIY label and being on a major label when it comes to the people that you are talking to? The way that it is done is very different but communicating directly to the people. I don’t care if they have never heard anything that we like or if they think that we invented. I don’t care if people have a sense of History. I feel like I have a strong sense of History, I know my History really well. I think. But is it important to play to those people? No. Do I care if I play to a bunch of hipsters who are excited to here something new? No. I don’t really feel like they are that different that the cool ray ban punks or the trust find crusters.
C: Absolutely, different costumes. And it ‘s almost like the fakers are more honest than the hip kids. I almost don’t see a difference. Punks are hipsters now. I look at music, fashion, art, film, and journalism… They are all part of one thing that that is what is: today. What is going on today? The new thing. What is the new thing that is happening right under other people’s nose. And they don’t realize it. Those who don’t try.
It’s like the Buddhist ideal of pure motive. If you don’t start out with pure motive, every step is a misstep. If you want to be in a band to play music that is a pure motive. If you want to be in a band to get laid, that is not a pure motive. If you want to be in a band to quit your job, that is not a pure motive, If you want to do this to fucking do this and it is pure and there is a reason for it… We started because we wanted to play music. That is a pure motive.
Everything else has happened to you.
D: it’s all incidental.
P: We never sent a demo to a record label.
C: Ever, in our lives. No bands we have ever been in have ever sent demos to anybody.
P: It has never been about getting signed, it has never even ever been about touring.
C: We were at a record label date back home and there was this band setting up to play and they were selling download cards. Ten dollar download cards. WHAT? Why? Who is going to buy that? Who gives a shit? They had CDs and download cards. It is weird that that is just how it is now. It’s like selling shit on Itunes, out of a box, in real life instead of selling the real thing. Instead of a fucking record. And it is just weird. This is a band that is networking to make it. I turned to the dude from the label and was like “check this out” and he just fucking laughed. So many people send them hundred of demos. To all the major Indies. And they don’t listen to them. It is because these bands don’t do anything on their own. They think that they have to play the game to fucking make it. Do it yourself doesn’t just mean DIY. Do it yourself means cultivate yourself. Do what you love.
P: Enrich your life.
C: Express yourself because you love it and because it doesn’t exist in the world already.
P: Everyone thinks there is a fucking formula to becoming successful and that is just not the case. There is just too much chance involved. And like he said every step would be a misstep if you don’t have pure motive. That’s it. You’re automatically fucked if you go into it thinking you’re going to make it. “I know I am going to do it! I am going to follow these steps and it should work out, right?” And that is so destructive. Not only to themselves but also to everyone around them.
C: It is just clearly, people have been brainwashed into thinking there is a certain way to do things and there absolutely isn’t, we are proof, I guess, of that.